Under the Hammer at Sotheby’s…
There’s a first time for everything, and this month’s masterclass saw Creative Access’s head to the prestigious offices of global auction house, Sotheby’s. We were joined by a panel of Sotheby’s own professionals; from jewellery experts to client developers, who showed us that there is really more to auction houses than meets the eye.
Set in a beautiful gallery adorned with exceptional artworks for sale, the evening was introduced by Kathryn Ward, HR Director at Sotheby’s. This was followed by a discussion; gaining insight into what the day in the life of a Sotheby’s employee, as well as how each individual on the panel got to where they are today.
First up was Sam Hug, a Cataloguer in Sotheby’s Jewellery department. Sam produces the catalogues for everything they sell, which involves research and coordinating photography, and in his case, testing and examining gemstones. On top of this, he evaluates jewellery with specialists and is actively involved in the sales of items.
Sam’s passion for jewellery led him to a career in the field. One negative of the job (yes, there is one!) is that because Sam deals with lots of objects, there isn’t necessarily enough time to work with each one. However, attention to detail is still key. Sam told the audience how a customer bought a ring in a car-boot sale in the 1980’s as costume jewellery for £10, which later turned out to be a 23-carat ring (later dubbed ‘the tenner’) and was sold at an auction for £580,000.
On career advice for our interns, Sam had this to say: ‘Have an open minded idea on where you fit in and work on your strengths to try and build upon them as best as possible.’
Next up was, Pietro Giambrone, the Deputy Manager at Sotheby’s Greenford Park Warehouse Facility. An experienced handler with a history of working in the fine art industry, Pietro always liked working practically and logistically and his duties installing work and building material fit perfectly with his strengths.
Unlike the rest of the panel, Pietro did not attend university but had ambitions to be a professional footballer. Don’t let Pietro’s sporty background fool you, he has an appreciation for the Arts and once stood at the front of an auction holding poo in a jar, which sold for £7,000!
Following on was Kitty Hadaway, UK Business Coordinator in Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings department. Kitty studied History of Art at university and worked at Sotheby’s for four years as a receptionist whilst completing her studies. She cited that the most difficult part of the role for her can be working with clients, especially when it comes to a ‘probate’ (which occurs as a result of inheritance; when items on an estate are valued and then taxed depending on their worth). Kathryn added that most people come to Sotheby’s to sell an item for one of the ‘3 D’s’ – Death, Debt or Divorce.
Specialising in modern and contemporary South Asian Art, Farhanah Mamoojee is currently the Client Developer at Sotheby’s. She believes patience is important in your career and it’s important to show a ‘genuine passion for what you want to do’. Farhanah started in operations on a temporary contract for two years whilst waiting for her perfect role to open up and took the ‘opportune moment’ to work for Sotheby’s when her role became available.
Although Sotheby’s is often seen as ‘elitist’, Farhanah says that actually, those working there do not fall within the elitist category. On striving in the industry, Farhanah advises that ‘the way to grow is to keep finding challenges, if there is a 50% chance you think you can do it, just try and that’s the way you improve yourself.’
Next up was Liberty Paterson, Gallery Manager of the S2 Contemporary gallery. She studied History of Art at university and then completed an internship at the V&A, where she worked on a project focusing on photographs of the Black British experience in the Victorian era. Libby had previously worked in varied roles and agrees that you shouldn’t ‘undervalue the other work experience you have’, even if you don’t feel that it is directly relevant. She said that the secret to her success was ‘not getting too stressed’. Easier said than done!
The final panellist was Lourdes Lopez Leal, Deputy Head of Production at Sotheby’s. It wasn’t a straight path to her dream job; Lourdes always had a passion for art and her goal was to work for Sotheby’s. She gained experience through six months of unpaid work and although she took a role outside of her career interests in a bespoke framing company, she quickly progressed and gained valuable experience on her way up.
Following the panel discussion we were treated to some delicious food and drink and got the chance to win a Sotheby’s goody bag by standing on the auction stand and taking selfies.
A huge thanks to our panel of inspirational speakers and to all at Sotheby’s for organising such a brilliant evening.